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Sky Pirate
aka: Sky Pirates

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A ninja's second-worst nightmare.note 

"Take the sky by thunder! (Thu-under!)
It is so wonderful to plunder! (Plu-under!)
When a village needs a pillage. (Ooh-aaah)
Or my pockets need a fillage. (You know what I'm saying?)"

As You Know, The Sky Is an Ocean, so it's only logical that it must have pirates as well.

Following all of the tropes applicable to pirates except for using aeroplanes (or better yet, airships, especially cool ones, or even better: flying boats!) instead of boats, Sky Pirates (sometimes referred to as "Air Pirates") were fairly popular in the early days of aviation, though they were soon eclipsed by Space Pirates once aeroplanes became less novel. Nowadays, Sky Pirates are mostly found in the yellowing pages of 1920s and 30s comics and pulp magazines, in modern media intended to evoke that era, and in Steampunk settings. No Sky Pirate story is truly complete without at least one Airborne Aircraft Carrier. Huge zeppelins and giant flying boats are par for the course as well, as are other magnificent flying machines. In more realistic settings that don't allow for such things, they'll be Ruthless Modern Pirates who happen to travel by plane. The punishment of walking the plank is especially deadly when it's administered by a sky pirate after a High-Altitude Battle.


See also Space Pirates, Pirate.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Lindbergh by Ahn Dongshik is a manga all about Sky Pirates. A young, spirited boy named Knit joins Shark's Sky Pirate Crew to go on a wondrous adventure.
  • The Magnificent Kotobuki is all about a squadron of mercenary pilots, the Kotobuki Flight Corps, who work as freelance escorts protecting transport zeppelins from air pirates.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU
    • The Golden Age Green Lantern had a recurring foe called Sky Pirate who embodied this trope.
    • The second Black Condor also fought a foe called Sky Pirate, who was essentially an updated version of the Green Lantern villain.
    • The Golden Age Superman also tangled with sky pirates at least once, who used the surprisingly low key method of using fast armed airplanes to force lumbering airliners into landing in a convenient field before robbing them on the ground.
  • Captain Fate in the Marvel Universe is a Flying Dutchman Space Pirate. He occasionally visits Earth and acts as a Sky Pirate.
  • Captain Plunder and his Sky Pirates in Sonic the Comic including the first mate Filch and the cook Simpson the Cat. In Sonic the Comic – Online! after another recruitment drive Cream the Rabbit joins the sky pirates.
  • Alexandre LeRoi appears as the main villain of the DC graphic novel Batman: Master of the Future, the sequel to Gotham by Gaslight, as an air pirate who intends to stop Gotham City's 20th Century celebrations, and to keep the looming century's polluting technology from becoming a reality. He keeps a mobile base in a zeppelin-esque airship powered by gas, and controlled by a robot LeRoi calls Antonio.
  • The Blackhawks sometimes faced Sky Pirates, and were treated as such themselves, at least early on. In their second story, an English pilot lashes out at Blackhawk: "Why, you're nothing but air pirates and assassins!"
  • The villains in the 1984 Marvel/Epic miniseries Crash Ryan.
  • Captain Bloodhawke and her crew from The Warlord.
  • In Requiem Vampire Knight, there's a sky pirate league primarily composed of ghouls.
  • A minor Green Arrow foe was Skylark, a sky pirate who operated out of a blimp.
  • Seems to be the direction Alex Ross and Dynamite Entertainment are taking the Black Terror within the Project Superpowers universe, complete with a parrot-themed sidekick. Must be that Jolly Roger on his chest…
  • In All Star Western #17, Jenny Freedom of the 19th Century Stormwatch clashes with Smokestack Jack; Steam Punk anarchist Mad Scientist based on a Cool Airship.
  • In Atomic Robo: The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific, the She-Devils spend much of their time battling sky pirates (and are considered sky pirates themselves by some of their foes).
  • Guilded Age: Aerial Piracy. Couldn't be more proud.

    Fan Works 
  • The Great Alicorn Hunt: In a rather sudden Genre Shift, chapter 59 gives us an airship crewed by diamond dogs whose mountainous home had little to offer in the mining department.

    Films — Animation 
  • Treasure Planet falls between this and Space Pirates (the look and tropes of the former, the actual technology and planet-to-planet flying of the latter).
  • The Pirate Fairy: Aspiring sky pirates, at least.
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) features Captain Celaeno and her crew, a group of pirate harpies. They'd been subjugated into servitude for the Storm King in events prior to the film, but go back to their old ways thanks to the ponies.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Captain Shakespeare of Stardust is a more literal example, captaining a flying boat which is powered by lightning. (However, although they dress and act like pirates, they're never seen attacking other boats — if there are any other flying boats — and seem instead to be smugglers.)
  • The Sky Pirates from the Australian movie Dakota Harris (1986) who force cargo planes to crash in the Bermuda triangle, and want to steal the MacGuffin that enables the user to travel through time.
  • The Phantom has Sala and her all-female air pirates.
  • In Goldfinger Pussy Galore and her team of stunt pilots were recruited by the Big Bad to assist in the robbery of Fort Knox.
  • Mythica: "The Admiral" (a woman) from The Iron Crown leads a group of Sky Pirates in a High Fantasy setting. They have a zeppelin and hang gliders.
  • Filibus: Il misterioso pirata del cielo is a 1915 silent film about a lady thief who operates out of an airship.
  • Blackbeard and his pirates in the 2015 fantasy film Pan, who use flying sailing ships.
  • In the short sci-fi film The Oceanmaker, aircraft are used to mine clouds for water after the oceans have turned to desert. Unfortunately they're not above driving off other cloud-miners by force.

  • Older Than Radio: Jules Verne's Robur the Conqueror, with his huge mega-helicopter vehicle, is the Ur-Example.
  • Armageddon 2419 A.D. the book that introduced Anthony "Buck" Rogers to the world.
  • Many 1930s pulps, Doc Savage and Operator 5 in particular. (Operator 5 was an early example of the James Bond-style super agent, complete with 1930s era high-tech gadgets.) Doc Savage twice faced Submarine Pirates as well.
  • Tom Swift and a whole host of copycat Boy Inventor heroes.
  • Prominently featured in The Edge Chronicles—in six out of the ten books in the series, the protagonist is either a sky pirate, a former sky pirate, or a future sky pirate, and of the four short stories in the series, two of the protagonists are sky pirates.
  • Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
  • The Doctor Who New Adventures novel Sky Pirates! blurred the line between this trope and Space Pirates with its setting being a solar system within a pocket universe which is fully pressurized with a breathable atmosphere. The pirates (and all the other "space" ships) are able to travel in a variety of non-airtight steampunk-esque vessels, some with open decks.
  • The Syndicate of Pirates, who use flying machines (not yet invented at the time of writing) and secret rays to terrorise the adventurers of the Klondike Gold Rush at Alaska in George Griffith's The Great Pirate Syndicate (1899).
  • Captain Mors, the "Air Pirate", from Der Luftpirat und sein Lenkbares Luftschiff (The Air Pirate and His Steerable Airship); a German dime novel with 165 issues from 1908-1911. Captain Mors is mentioned (by never actual appears) in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
  • Karl Schroeder's Virga novels are focused on justifying this in a relatively Hard Science Fiction setting.
  • The sky pirates in the John Carter of Mars novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
  • Sky Pirates of Callisto is the sixth novel of Lin Carter's Callisto series, and a homage to Burroughs.
  • In the Steam Punk novel Boneshaker by Cherie Priest the theft of an airship (itself recently stolen from the Confederate military) leads to a midair battle between two pirate gangs. Several other books in the Clockwork Century also feature them as protagonists or antagonists.
  • Stephen Hunt's The Court of the Air features airships as the main fighting force of one nation, the sole power with access to the Unobtainium necessary to keep them afloat. Better yet, the eponymous Court of the Air is a secret, ultra-elite, badass organization of magic-wielding One-Man Army types. And their base is a floating fortress that is not only higher into the atmosphere than any airships other than their own can reach, but remains anchored there permanently.
  • Inevitably, sky pirates were among the foes fought by Biggles, though lacking the Airborne Aircraft Carriers or Cool Airships. The plots featuring them usually played out more like an armoured car heist, with either mechanical sabotage or some unemployed war veteran in a surplus fighter forcing an aircraft carrying bullion or other valuables to land, with a gang on the ground waiting to loot it. Gangs pulling off an Armed Blag on land and then using aircraft as getaway vehicles might also fall under this trope, however.
  • The Alistair Maclean novel Fear Is The Key begins with an aircraft being shot down by a war-surplus fighter plane, in order for The Mafia to get their hands on the precious cargo inside. Unfortunately the plane crashes in an unusually deep marine trench, setting off the events of the main story.
  • Mack Maloney's Wingman series, being a modern take on pulp fiction, features sky pirates in the Divided States of America. Since this setting doesn't involve the common conventions of Cool Airships or similar "flying towns" to attack, they tend to be more like airborne biker gangs whose activities mainly consist of forcing planes to land for robbery or engaging in air strikes on settlements.
  • The Grimnoir Chronicles has the last piece of a super-weapon protected by Southunder, who preys on Imperium ships in the Pacific ocean from his zeppelin.
  • Skies Unbroken is an After the End (a societal collapse) World in the Sky. It had sky privateers and pirates proper, and some of the main characters actually used to be sky pirates.
  • Sundered Lands, which takes place in a Shattered World where travel is only capable via skyboats, has Captain Grizzletusk and his crew. They're all corsairs who constantly chase after the protagonists and Rape, Pillage, and Burn as they please.
  • Liesel Schwarz' The Chronicles Of Light And Shadow series features much, much use of airship travel, so of course the third book, Sky Pirates has pirates.

  • Abney Park's "Airship Pirates" pretty much embodies this trope.
    • The entire band embodies this trope, as their main theme involves them being a band of drunken rogue pirates operating off the airship Ophelia. Although, if the lyrics of Airship Pirates and Post-Apocalypse Punk are anything to go by, they're not particularly good at it.
    • This image is further reinforced by the title track from their 2009 album AEther Shanties, which describes the ship as being about one good breeze from collapsing under its own weight, with a crew that's planning mutinies when they're not fighting each other.
  • Alestorm are generally Nautical pirate themed, but a few of their songs have an element of Sky Pirates.
    "We are Heavy Metal Pirates
    We sail across the sky!
    In our battleships of Cosmic Steal
    With a terror up on high!"

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Buck Rogers, of course. Interesting in that he started out fighting Sky Pirates and ended up fighting Space Pirates, all in the space of about 10 years.
  • Sala and her Amazon Brigade Sky Band in The Phantom.
  • In Little Nemo in Slumberland the Princess' royal airship is attacked by sky pirates in one issue.
  • Barney Baxter In The Air was an aviation strip that ran from 1935 to 1950. Sky pirates were amongst the foes battled by the youthful hero.

  • Dice Funk features the antagonistic Blackhearts, a group of pirates flying an airship dubbed the Zavala.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In WWE NXT, the team of "The Pirate Princess" Kairi Sane and "The Genius of the Sky" Io Shirai is called the Sky Pirates.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Crimson Skies, later made into several video games. In an Alternate History setting where the United States of America broke up early in the 30s, and no interstate road or rail network, freight is instead delivered by air cargo services operating massive cargo zeppelins; these are in turn preyed upon by air pirates.
  • Indie game Swashbucklers Of The 7 Skies.
  • Sky pirates operate out of the Rocky Mountains in Deadlands: Hell on Earth.
  • Abney Park recently came out with a tabletop RPG called Airship Pirates. They also have a board game in the same setting, Terror Of The Skies.
  • Captain Gyrfalcon from Exalted, who — mainly out of greed and an old grudge — harasses the airships of the Haslanti League, who are the only significant power with a meaningful air force in the entire North. He dresses like a classic pirate, and sports a sidearm (which is actually a small flamethrower, not a gun, but whatever).
  • All over the place in Castle Falkenstein. They're most numerous in America, where most of them were Confederate Army airship crews who went rogue after the war.
  • Sundered Skies is set in a World in the Sky, so there is little choice but to travel by airship; so there is obviously the odd pirate.

    Video Games 
  • Skies of Arcadia. Strangely, they are still called Air Pirates despite the lack of any other kind of pirates or sea as such in a world with no oceans and floating continents. It also draws a distinct line between idealized pirates and real ones: real pirates are called, appropriately, Black Pirates. Blue Rogues, on the other hand, are generally adventurers and explorers who only attack The Empire's ships and Black Pirates.
  • Several examples from the Final Fantasy series:
    • Setzer in Final Fantasy VI. It's never explicitly stated, but he's a law-evading free spirit in an airship with a penchant for kidnapping beautiful women, whose "business" has taken a hit since the Empire started capturing more and more cities. All the trappings are there, anyway. He also happens to be the only man with an airship.
    • Final Fantasy XII, especially Revenant Wings, features them. Balthier and Fran start as them, and it's Vaan's dream to become one in the original game. It's also Balthier's class when he cameos in the rerelease of Final Fantasy Tactics, but Ramza laughs at him when he identifies himself as one, since airships are a thing of the past by that point. This is also a Vaan-only Job Class in Final Fantasy Tactics A2.
  • The main antagonists of Owlboy are sky pirates.
  • Rise of Legends, the Vinci sub-faction called the Pirata are the source of all fliers for that side.
  • The Sky Raiders of City of Heroes. Complete with a named boss who is a Captain Ersatz of TaleSpin's Don Karnage.
    Captain Castillo: The breaking of into the base was of no great difficulty for one such as I am. You may all count yourselves as blessed for to be seeing my skills in such operation.
  • Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil features a former trainee priestess turned sky pirate as the main antagonist. At one point, she turns into a giant robotic chicken, and you have to fight her. She comes with a Non-Human Sidekick in the form of Tat, a sort of cat creature with the skin tone of Lokai and Bele. (For non-Trekkies, that's black on one side and white on the other. Turns out Tat can split into black and white forms.)
  • The Jellyfish Air Pirates of Guilty Gear.
  • Captain Homard and his crew of incredibly annoying cats fly the Escargot in Nippon Ichi's La Pucelle.
  • Lance Banson from Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure.
  • The basic premise of at least one of the classes in the semi-Steampunk flash game Battle Stations.
  • The Flash MMOG Skyrates is set in a world recovering from an apocalyptic war which reduced the remaining viable landmass to a collection of scattered islands. Ripped from the ground and cast adrift in the sky through the use of Unobtainium, these Skylands carried with them the last remnants of civilization. Now split into several color-coded factions, the descendants of these survivors travel and trade between the Skylands and are preyed upon en route by air pirates operating from smaller, unmapped "skylets".
  • The Bonne family from Mega Man Legends and The Misadventures of Tron Bonne.
  • Freedom Wings takes place on an alternate Earth in an era resembling the 1940’s. Air Pirates have taken to the skies and have placed fear into the hearts of others world wide. The player assumes the role of a nameless, faceless pilot whose parents were murdered by air pirates, motivating the character to join the Air Patrol Association (APA), a squadron of mercenary pilots hired to clear the skies of Air Pirate activity.
  • In Septerra Core, travelers between the World Shells are often preyed on by pirates from Shell 6.
  • The Captain in Cargo! The Quest for Gravity pilots an airship and at least looks and talks like a pirate, though he doesn't actually seem to engage in piracy.
  • Because Academagia takes place on a World in the Sky where the surface (and its oceans) are present but unreachable, they are usually referred to as simply "pirates". Like the legitimate sailors of Elumia, the pirates mostly use wind-powered flying ships that are either specifically enchanted or made with of a rare wood that "naturally" floats in the air. Although there are some mundane lighter-than-aircraft. Pirates are practically the default villain in this game, since they are the most prevalent antagonists in events and adventures, even eclipsing the local Thieves' Guild.
  • The main enemies in Tail Concerto, the somewhat Darker and Edgier sequel Solatorobo: Red the Hunter treats them as a joke, mostly appearing in side quests.
  • Guns of Icarus is all about defending your own airship from Sky Pirates.
  • The setting of the Air Buccaneers mod for Unreal Tournament 2003 is heavily pirate-influenced. The weapons are blunderbusses and old-style-fuse cannons, the clothing is straight out of a pirate film and although the gameplay does not involve actual piracy in the strict sense of the word, the taking of enemy airships to be used against your foe is a common occurrence.
  • Pirate 101 has this since it takes place in the Spiral, a Shattered World with few large bodies of water. (Yes, that's the same Spiral as in Wizard 101.) It's currently assumed that the ships fly due to the magic from a wizard.
  • The Capua Family from The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky are a deconstruction of the usual glamorized depiction in an RPG. In a country with a monopoly on commercialized air travel, their Erebonian airship sticks out like a sore thumb and they have to take care in hiding it from Liberl intelligence. The kingdom keeps strict border security and monitors air traffic with a healthy trade economy, which means there's not much the Capuas could profit from, even if the risks outweighed the reward. The one time they highjack a civilian aircraft for ransom, the Bracer Guild and the military are quick to respond and ultimately arrest them. When they're eventually pardoned by the queen, they end up far more successful as a legitimate delivery company.
  • Sophia has an unfortunate run-in with a band of these, led by a giant talking minotaur, in the playable epilogue of Awakening: The Skyward Castle.
  • The Aetherblade of Guild Wars 2 are a massive faction of these, using airships stolen from the Pact and technical support from the Inquest. They were created by Scarlet Briar as part of her lengthy preparation to awaken an Elder Dragon.
  • Sky Nations has this as its whole shtick. Well, that and a potential deity in disguise dimension hopping cat.
  • Steam Bandits Outpost is a free-to-play game centering on steampunk sky pirates.
  • The Pirate Otters from Magical Starsign certainly fit the bill, being modeled after 18th-century pirates, complete with the (space)ship design from that era.
  • Terraria: The Pirates might be this, as their flagship is a flying pirate ship called the Flying Dutchman.


    Western Animation 
  • Two episodes of Dragon Tales involved the main characters teaming up with a pirate who flew across Dragon Land on a giant blimp.
  • The title of one of George Pal's European Puppetoons. Due to it being a Lost Episode with fragments only available in a documentary, we don't know for sure what it was about, but it appears to be about pirates who harass an air force using airplanes, until the said air force drinks Horlick's and defeats them.
  • One episode of Storm Hawks features a band of sky pirates who fly around in a boat-shaped airship and fight a giant Moby-Dick-esque monster.
  • Don Karnage and his men in Disney's TaleSpin are pirates based in a Flying Aircraft Carrier called the Iron Vulture, who frequently swarm Baloo's plane to steal whatever his cargo is.
    • Don Karnage also makes an appearance in DuckTales (2017), where he and his crew do a song and dance number distracting Scrooge and his family while they make off with their treasure. He'll also throw anybody overboard who questions his decisions.
  • In Mysticons Kitty Boon leads a group of sky pirates called the Pink Skulls. Main character Zarya used to run with this particular group of pirates. There's also Captain Kaos, the sky pirate who kidnapped Zarya and Kitty from their village when they were young.

    Real Life 
  • In legal terms, the phrase "air piracy" just means the hijacking or theft of an aircraft. However, there's at least one instance that really does call this trope to mind. In April 1917, in the midst of World War I, the Imperial German Zeppelin L23 that was on sea patrol came across an honest-to-goodness wooden sailing ship from a non-combatant country that was transporting a non-war related cargo. It was the Norwegian schooner Royal, and was a holdover from a different era of shipping. The Captain of the Zeppelin then gave an order said to be unique in aircraft history: "Gentlemen, prepare to board our prize!" Unfortunately, as the boat from the Zeppelin was being lowered, the rough seas caused them to lose their machine gun overboard. So instead, the Zeppelin crew bluffed the schooner into submission with a flare gun. They sailed the schooner all the way back to Germany! These boardings weren't all that unusual, either: Zeppelins sometimes boarded sea vessels to check their papers and cargo holds, but this was the only time they actually pirated a vessel.
  • Privateer vessels are essentially private vessels given permission by their government to pirate vessels of other nations, or even conduct naval combat and raids on foreign military vessels. Although extremely obscure, the U.S. Constitution provides for the issuing of Letters of Marque—documents permitting piracy—by Congress. Congress exercised this power during the War of 1812, and while it never actually received a Letter of Marque, operating instead like an armed merchant vessel, the last U.S. vessel to operate as a privateer was the Goodyear blimp named Resolute, which engaged in anti-submarine patrols in 1941 and 1942, armed only with a rifle.
  • A group of British RAF veterans and supply workers managed to heist Berlin and various other German cities after World War II using Allied Transport planes, including one of the B-29 bombers stationed in Britain with all weapons and bomb-racks removed. Their mode of operation was to fly without any cargo but with counterfeit US army scrips, and buy/rob jewelry and firearms from Germans. Sometimes they would pretend to smuggle Nazi officers out of Germany but hand them over to genuine Allied officers to escape punishment. The whole operation started in 1945 and extended throughout the Berlin airlift.
  • When US Navy pilot (and future Senator and Presidential candidate) John McCain was shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese, he was tortured into making false confessions of war crimes for a propaganda video. One of the ways he tried to subvert the propaganda was declaring himself an "air pirate" during the confession.
  • The Miss Macao Incident was an attempt at this that ended very, very badly for both the perpetrators and the victims. Four armed men attempted to rob a Catalina seaplane carrying gold from Macau to Hong Kong. During the resulting fight, the pilot was shot, and when his body fell on the controls it sent the plane crashing into the Pearl River. Ironically, the only survivor was one of the would-be "pirates."

Alternative Title(s): Sky Pirates


Example of: